Harbinger of Destiny: Herald of Fate

Chapter Eight

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

Nelson Mandela

They stared at each other in perplexed silence for an interminable period of time. Neither was sure how to progress at this point, nor were they entirely sure they were prepared to.

"How's your English going?" Neville finally asked, breaking the uncomfortable standoff with an innocent question.

"It gets better more I hear it," Harry said, his voice lilting in he way that all Elves did when they spoke the human tongue. Then, deciding this was going nowhere, divulged, "English was my mother tongue. Its just been such a long time since last spoke it. I forget sometimes the order of words. It is tricky language."

"Yeah," Neville agreed, grasping on to the subject choice. "Elvish is much more direct."

"I've been thinking a lot about what we should do," Neville said after another bout of silence. "I want you to know that if I could free you I would. Since I can't, I guess I should ask you what you would like to do."

"Yours Master," Harry said, though his stomach twisted uncomfortably. "Do with as you wish."

Neville winced. "Would you be willing to remove your mask? I would like to get to know you better."

Harry's feet shifted nervously. Then slowly he brought his hand up and slowly removed his mask, revealing, finally, his identity.

"His name is on the tree Dumbledore!" Sirius exclaimed, pacing the Headmaster's office impatiently. "Don't you understand what that means?"

"Indeed Sirius," Dumbledore said calmly, his gaze settled firmly on the tiny name at the bottom of the Potter family tree. "It means that Harry is very much alive."

"Exactly!" Sirius said. He flopped into a chair smiling widely, his point obviously made.

"How long has he been like this?" the Headmaster turned to Remus, somewhat amused, his eyes twinkling at Sirius' antics. The werewolf shrugged.

"Oh, I'd say about a week or two tops. I have to put silencio on him at night in order to get any sleep," Remus said, somewhat wearily but in good spirits.

"I see," Dumbledore said, casting another amused glance in the hyperactive animagus' direction.

"So how are we gonna find him?" Sirius asked.

The Headmaster's face dropped a smidgen. "Sirius, I am not sure what more we can do. You will remember that when he first disappeared we sent out dozens of search teams, we looked everywhere for him. If he still hasn't been found he is either in hiding or in a situation that he can't get out of."

"Harry wouldn't hide from us, not for this long, not when he knows how much pain it would cause us," Sirius said angrily, on his feet again. "That means that he's in trouble, and now that we know he's alive, we have got to do something professor!"

"Padfoot," Remus broke in, "we have tried every locator spell we know to try to track down Harry. We have even placed ads in muggle papers, filed missing child reports, Harry hasn't been found."

"There just must be something we haven't tried yet," Sirius whined, slumping back down in his chair, his face a picture of prosaic gloom.

Dumbledore looked at them both, trying to judge their emotions. "When Harry is ready he will come home to us," he said, and then he bent down, returning his attention to the recently submitted lesson plans for the second semester. He had a school to run after all.

Neville gaped. Then he opened his mouth. Then he closed it and decided that gaping was more appropriate. For a couple of minutes he fluctuated this way, caught between trying to find something to say and just transfixed at the image of the long thought dead Harry Potter–albeit very changed–before him.

"I think I need to sit down," he said after a moment, and settled himself carefully on to the bed, fighting off the blackening edges around his eyes, determined not to faint.

"Neville..." Harry began softly.

"Just a moment Harry," Neville said, his voice sharp from shock. "Just give me a bloody moment to process this."

Harry's mouth shut automatically at the command, and he bowed his head obsequiously. "Kree, Bra'sin," Harry murmured. (Yes, Master.)

Neville's head shot up in alarm. It was as though he had just realized that Harry was a slave, that Harry was in fact his slave.

"Merlin," he muttered.

Neville shook his head then abruptly stood to regard his head-bowed slave with analytical eyes. He was very angry, though he knew he shouldn't be. Knew that he should be relieved and glad that Harry was alive, even if he was in this condition. But he was still furious with Harry.

"I can't believe that we've thought Harry Potter was dead for the last three years," he snarled, and Harry was surprised by the hostility of his voice. This was the angriest Harry had ever seen him.

"He was," Harry replied gently. "I am Harry Evans."

"Changing your last name doesn't make you dead Harry," Neville said, "It just makes you a coward, hiding from us, from the world, to weak to face your responsibilities."

Harry was taken aback. Neville was the kind one, the gentle one. He was not the vicious person in front of him. The chubby's boys face was red and flushed and his hands were clenched.

"Master..." Harry started, though it hurt him inside to call his friend that. "I was not hiding. I am slave. Your slave now. There was nothing could I do."

"You could have told us," Neville said, getting up now and pacing the room in front of him. "You could have let us in on the secret. We could have helped you Harry. Merlin, do you even know how awful Ron and Hermione have been without you. They think you're dead Harry. How could you let them go on thinking that?"

"It is better this way," Harry insisted. "They can not help me and it would hurt them much to realize I am like this for always. Better for them to think me dead."

"How can you say that?" Neville shouted, then, all of a sudden he seemed to lose steam. He looked sad now. "How can you think that your friends would rather see you dead than a slave?"

"Because if I am dead, they move on," Harry said quietly. "If slave, they continue to fight. They will realize not that there is no hope."

"But Harry," Neville interrupted. "Don't you understand? They will have you."

Allenia nodded demurely as her brother droned on about the upcoming winter holiday and their return to the Elvish world for a while. Most of their conversations went like this, Amin talking at her while Allenia feigned interest and attempted in all ways not to offend her brother. It was a strange dynamic. In return for her reticence and seeming obedience, Amin lent her fondness and protection while Allenia was able to go about her business without her brother's interference.

The result was that Amin regarded his sister with less than the suspicion that she justly deserved, assuming her innocent expressions and willing compliance were signs of obedience.

So as her brother continued to talk of matters having little importance to her, Aleena drifted off and her swift mind began piecing together the events of the last week. Harry was with Neville now, she knew that, and she was also well aware that the Gryffindor boy would soon know of his slave's true identity. What the pudgy seventh year would choose to do with the information was speculation. Harry had not told her enough of his past life's friends for her to accurately guess the boy's intentions.

Her relationship with Harry was a strange one, and one that had remained a possibly deadly secret since his entrance to the Elvin world. The nature of their relationship was ... unusual...and the divulgence of information shared between them was widespread.

To put it simply, Harry and she had been romantically involved for just shy of two years. Their rendezvous were few and far between and subject to constant interruption. But their affection and the possibility for love had grown between them at a constant pace, never tapering off despite the obvious objections of her culture.

They had first made contact when Harry was fresh from the reeducation camp. New as both a slave and a guard he had been put on the lowest level status in her family's manor–guarding her. As the lowest ranked member of her household Aleena was often an afterthought and, as such, was considered last priority in terms of protection. She thus got the least trained guards, or the ones who had fallen out of favor with the higher ranked members of her kin. The situation suited everyone involved as Aleena took advantage of her privacy to do things that most of her family would most likely not sanction, the guards got something of a break, and the family could answer inquiries to her safety with a clear conscience, maintaining she had suitable protection.

As more and more of her guards tapered off into the higher levels of security or were proved unworthy and returned to the reeducation camps, Harry remained a constant. Though most likely the strongest guard her family had, he did nothing to draw attention to himself in order to rise the ranks, nor did he do anything to cause his removal from her guard. Soon he was the only of her original guard left, and, as her family began to recognize the benefits of having one strong guard stationed on her rather than a dozen weaker ones, he became her permanent bodyguard.

When she had first started to have feelings towards him, she pushed them away, appalled with this breach in Elvish upbringing and refusing to acknowledge the growing emotions inside of her. As they continued, she put aside her feelings as an Elf and focused on those of a woman and began to slowly bring down the walls separating them as Lady and Slave and erect a foundation between a woman and a man.

His responses were awkward at first too. At first he responded to her feelings because he thought it was required of him. He assumed she meant to use him as a bedroom slave, and he had been taught that to refuse the whims of a woman meant swift punishment in the world of a male slave. So he surprised her by responding to her. Then, slowly, as she wanted to acquaint them with touches instead of just words, she recognized his hesitance...and questioned it.

When she uncovered the truth she was horrified. For half a year she refused to touch him at all, wouldn't even engage him in conversation for fear he would take it the wrong way. Then, suddenly, perhaps because he had been in her service for a while and nothing untoward had occurred, he began to trust her.

From there, the attraction escalated quickly. Only half a year later found them in bed for the first time. He, the trusted servant, unquestioned in her rooms because of his position. And she, the Lady virgin, who's family had unknowingly enslaved the man of her dreams.

They both understood the danger of their positions. And when they had found out they were going to Hogwarts and that Harry had been appointed as Head of the Guard, he had made it painstakingly clear that their affair could no longer continue. But now...he was no longer a slave in the Elvish service. And his new master was a member of her House...perhaps he would not be opposed to "lending" out the man for a few nights, especially if Harry raised no objections.

No food...no water.

If Harry hadn't know that Neville was not psychologically capable of viciousness he may have started to worry. An entire day, twenty four hour time period had passed and Harry had not heard another word from his old friend. Nor had he received any type of nourishment. If he had not known Neville before and was not well aware that the oversight must be intentional, this kind of treatment may have garnered a violent reaction from him. Instead, he recognized that Neville had important things on his mind, and that feeding him probably hadn't occurred to him. In fact, Neville was a pureblood, and so well accustomed to House Elves providing for his every need, he had likely assumed that Elves would take care of him. Unfortunately, House Elves had received instructions since the High Elves arrival that clearly maintained that no slave was to be fed outside the kitchens without explicit permission.

As if his thoughts had summoned the nervous Gryffindor (and hey, this was Hogwarts, maybe they had), Neville suddenly stood framed in the doorway of his room, holding a plate overflowing with food.

"I...I didn't r-realize the House Elves couldn't feed you," he said quietly, sounding ashamed of himself. "I brought you something to eat."

"It's ok," Harry said, equally somber. "After years been away, understand you may be little distracted."

"It is somewhat mind-blowing," Neville admitted, coming into the door all the way and handing the tray to Harry who had stood from the bed when his master entered. Neville settled on the bed, and Harry placed the tray on the bedside table, unwilling to eat while his Master was present. His stomach betrayed him, growling expectantly, and Neville gave him a harsh look.

"Don't not eat on my account," Neville said, and Harry, nodding complacently grabbed a banana and kneeled at Neville's feet, stripping the skin and savoring the first food he had eaten since before that fight with Neville the other day.

Neville didn't question his automatic submission, nor did he call attention to it besides a slight shaking of his head.

"I don't know what to do Har," Neville sad finally. "I know I should tell Dumbledore, Hermione, Ron, Sirius, hell, everyone...but I don't want to do it behind your back. We've been friends for too long for me not to know that you don't do something without a good reason. And, Harry, this had better be a damn good reason."

The statement ended expectantly and Neville met Harry's gaze, which Harry automatically dropped.

"Master, I am slave for life. Like this, cause more pain than comfort. Better 'Mione and Ron not know."

"Not good enough. You're gonna have to do better than that to explain why you let them and me believe you were dead for these past years. Tell me how you became a slave Harry."

And so Harry told him. About after that third task, how Voldemort had gleefully handed him over for the Elves to vie for their support in the war. How the Elves had uncovered the blood connection between them and him. How they had blackmailed him, using his only remaining relatives' lives hanging in the balance, in order to earn his Debts. How Harry had suffered through the reeducation camps, had come to know and accept his place in the world. He didn't tell Neville about Allenia. The boy was too open to outside persuasion as of yet, a skilled legilimens could glean the information from his mind without twitching an eyelid.

At the end of it Neville's eyes were teared up but he used strength Harry hadn't known he had to keep them from falling and met Harry's gaze squarely, assessing him up and down. "I understand now why you did it Harry, but I think that you don't give us mere wizards enough credit. No, listen. Hermione and Ron will be heartbroken when they find out you're a slave. They'll be devastated when they realize that you'll be a slave for the rest of your life. But when that devastation has passed and they've had time to mourn your freedom, they'll cherish the fact that you're still alive, and that you're still you. And that is why tomorrow I am going to tell them that you're here, and that you're alive."

That decided, Neville left Harry to his thoughts.